Kathmandu, Nepal holy ****

If you dream of a toilet, do not use it. 

Seen on a shop sign in Kathmandu

Holy shit ! Yesterday our first full day I the city and beginning the trip we (8 of us) went to the Buddhist stupa, a world heritage site. A spectacular “temple” for buddhists. 

Unfortunately it was destroyed in the earthquake but is being rebuilt. Spectacular and sad and inspiring and amazing.

But for its awesomeness the bus ride there and back was the kicker. We all were amazed at the traffic and the driver ability to navigate, and the navigation was not which street but survival amongst the traffic. I was in New York City a few years ago and was scared to death to just contemplate driving there. One had to have an exquisite sense of exactly where all points of your vehicle were. That was nothing compared to Kathmandu if it were not so filthy we wanted to get down and kiss the ground on arrival back at hotel. (One considers the ground totally filthy here) 

We’ll progress to today and our first ride about the valley. We thought maybe  a bus out of town but no we ride from hotel. Holy shit. 

Basically we were all scared but when we got on the bikes the beauty of biking returned. This was very technical riding and requires 100% concentration with a high degree of situational awareness. There are no bike lanes, you are part of the traffic: buses, autos, motorbikes, hand carts, push bikes, pedestrians crossing, and bikes totally loaded with 100-200 pounds (100 kg) hanging off aides and sticking out. And they drive on left here which one best remember because instinct will take you to the right of whatever comes at you and they can kill you. 

One has to be aggressive and as Rein says “brutal” it is like a giant game of chicken sometimes you have to give and sometimes you just move out and hope they stop or maneuver around. There is no one meter rule and if you allow a meter between you and the bus a motorbike will come rushing through hoping its handlebars will fit under yours. As noted earlier traffic rules seem to be general guidelines. But it seems to work. 

Then there are the cross streets or just crossing a street. You just start working your way out into traffic. Be brave be strong and if not you will be there all day. And none of this bike to side of road. You go where there is room which is sometimes in opposing lane squeezing between incoming traffic. Buses are scary because they seem to randomly pull over, stop allowing passengers on off, taxis will just do a u-turn in mid street. 

And also keep a careful eye on road  as this is third world and manhole covers are often not there which means a huge hole without barrier.  As in la Paz, Bolivia.  

I did not wear my buff today. Always wear a buff even if it is in the high 90s temp. Which it was today 36 degeees c. And humid. The buff one could cover ones nose and mouth and not breath in the dust, diesel and whatever else. Would have been nice even in the sweat I was pouring off. 

navigating road construction
keep in minds these pictures were taken in the quiet times when i could get camera out

And when we got back to the hotel we were all excited- we survived and had a great time. It was technical, exhilarating, exciting, and it felt good to be an equal out on the road. 

And tomorrow we depart by bus for 6-7 hour ride to besi sahar. For the trip the porters will carry 35 kg per porter which is two people’s gear. This afternoon after coming back changes money getting 52000  rupees for next weeks. ( $500). And deciding what gear to leave and what to take. I have my bag to 16.2 kg. Rein noted how some people have it all (me) and some have none..  I loaned my tool kit today to do adjustments to others bikes. Ok. 

Now sitting in restaurant with wifi drinking beer and thinking of tomorrow. 

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